Copyright and Ye; Part 1: My Course Reader Costs One-Hundred and Thirty Five Dollars

One of my course readers for this semester costs $135. Last year it was $40. I'm not sure if few things surprise me, or if I attempt to act like few things surprise me, or if this particular incident isn't surprising because it's been hinted at and mentioned in classes before. Whatever the ... conundrum, course readers are seemingly about to become as expensive as textbooks. You may remember a small photocopy centre that was, hmm ... near the Bata Show Museum, I believe. I'm sure many of us can recall purchasing course readers from there: ah, yes, $50 made us cringe then - back in those simpler days (tissue). Remember? Yeah, it's gone. This happened. U of T has entered into an agreement with Access Copyright, a, shock and awe, copyright licensing agency. This agency, as the Varsity article states, obtained a Federal court order to seize all materials at Quality Control, the photocopy place mentioned above. (The name of the shop is ... kind of ironic.) Now professors, and other U of T instructors, have to go through "legitimate means" when compiling materials and having course readers made. Licensing fees come into play, and they are apparently quite high. Hence, the price increase in course readers. With the power of Google, I found a document entitled "Copyright FAQs for University of Toronto Instructors". Expecting violently-huge words and faculty-jargon, I thought I could base a whole post of translating the document for you. Alas, it is not in faculty-jargon; its fairly easy to read. Regardless, here's a bit - or a lot - of it. But, y'know, give it a read anyway. It gives a clear picture of the headaches various professors will be going through in compiling readers in the future; perhaps we can sympathize with them, for once.

The opening paragraph translates as:

"There is not a lot of leeway in making copies of things, even for school. It is very easy to break the rules. We’ve tried to get you some leeway, but there’s still not a lot."


Without permission, U of T instructors can copy:

  • an entire newspaper article
  • an entire short story
  • a play
  • a poem
  • an essay
  • an article from book
  • an entire "single item" of print music from a book
  • entire entry from reference material (e.g., the dictionary)
  • entire reproduction of an artistic work from a book
  • entire chapter of a book that is 20% or less than the entire length of said book
  • 10% of any written copyrighted word

("Copyright FAQs", 1)

We’re also involved in licensing agreements with online publishers.

In some of these cases, the University is allowed to reproduce copies of materials for course packs, or for in-class … stuff. It seems here conditions vary, so you would have to check with the individual agreements. Not you, the students. The professors. Yeah.

Without permission, we’re also allowed to:

  • make manual reproductions of a work on things like dry-erase boards, flip charts, etc.
  • make copies of works to be used "to project an image of that copy", e.g., with an overhead projector
  • make copies for the purposes of tests or exams
  • "reproduce, translate or perform a work" in public on campus (or, "the premises of the University")
  • communicate a work by "telecommunications" to the rest of the University
("Copyright FAQs", 1)

These rules only apply if the work is being used for educational or training purposes; if whatever you are doing with it happens on campus, or in a place "controlled" by the University; and if you can't buy the work in a format appropriate for whatever you are doing.

If students are charged for the cost of course materials, instructors gain more leeway. They can then photocopy up to 15%, rather than 10%, of a published work. ("Copyright FAQs", 2)

The Copyright FAQ goes on to outline what instructors can do with internet and audio/visual materials, from playing music in class to showing clips from television.

For example, some "current events programs" can be copied and "performed" (I guess that means played) in public without payment to whoever owns it, depending on "certain timing, marking and record-keeping requirements". Under the Copyright Act (Bill C-42, or ... something C-42), we can make copies of news and news commentary programs, excluding documentaries. These can be shown in class whenever one feels like it - for a year. As long as it's to an audience of mostly U of T students. And if it's shown on campus. And if it's for educational or training purposes.

After a year you have to DESTROY THE COPY* or arrange royalty payment, along with more complicated regulations to follow with the Media Commons. ("Copyright FAQs", 3)

Lastly, there are more rules one must adhere to with reference to research. Basically: cite everything.** The word "normal" is a strange one. I personally don't believe anything is truly "normal," but I once used it to describe being able to live my life not in a bomb shelter rocking back and forth, muttering to myself. I was then challenged for using the word "normal." Or, perhaps, it was in response to a challenge. Whatever - a lot of things we call normal are really just "normalized." My four-year-old cousin used to point to anything he wanted and say, "I wan buy dat." Because, in his universe, you buy things. In our way of life, at this juncture in humanity's trajectory, we buy things, we copyright things, we sell things, anything else is: OMG COMMUNISM***. Or, rather, "bad and/or unthinkable." "But, Liesl! What does that have to do with copyright?! WIBB are you talking about? How long of a tangent -". Last year, Richard Stallman gave a lecture on campus that was all about free software, copyright, how copyright fits into how humans operate/have operated, and what copyright means for us... But I'm at 1120 words, so that part of this Copyright Saga of sorts will continue next week, children! - Liesl

*(shakes a menacing fist)

**"Copyright FAQs for University of Toronto Instructors." Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation. 1-5. PDF file.

*** Please do not try and deduce my position on Communism from this sentence. DISCLAIMERRRR

2 comments on “Copyright and Ye; Part 1: My Course Reader Costs One-Hundred and Thirty Five Dollars

  1. Hey Liesl,

    This is such an informative post – it is so great, because a lot of students have issues with the course reader prices. What appears to be a spiral-bounded mass of papers culminating to 20 articles, the course readers contain a pretty hefty copywright background.

    Although most students dislike the prices, there is a point worth noting – I’d rather buy one course reader, than 5 or 10 books in which I will only use 2o pages from each. In the end, the effort the Professors put in to making a course reader and dealing with copywrights is really very valuable for the students.

    Looking forward to Part II!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *